A judge has ordered Michael Jackson's personal doctor to stand trial on involuntary manslaughter charges for allegedly killing the singer with an overdose of powerful sedatives.
Conrad Murray, who claims he was just treating the pop icon for insomnia when he died in June 2009, also had his license to practise medicine in California suspended.
The doctor will be arraigned on January 25, the Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled after six days of hearings which heard evidence that Dr Murray tried to cover having given Jackson an overdose of the drug propofol.
Jackson's death shocked the entertainment world and triggered intense debate over the performer's health in the run-up to the London concerts, known as the "This is It" tour.
Dr Murray, who was born in Grenada and raised in Trinidad before he moved to the United States, could face up to four years in jail and lose his doctor's license if the case goes to full trial and he is convicted.
Prosecutors claim his defense team will argue that Jackson effectively killed himself by administering an extra dose of propofol while Dr Murray was out of the room, although the defence have not commented on this.
Specifically they allege that Dr Murray, 57, "abandoned his patient" after administering the propofol some time between 10:40 am and 11:00 am to help Jackson sleep, and then tried to cover it up after the singer's death.
Yesterday's widely-expected ruling came shortly after a forensic expert testified that Jackson's death was homicide, saying the singer was in generally good health when he died on June 25, 2009 at his LA mansion.
Christopher Rogers, head of forensic medicine for the Los Angeles County coroner's office, said the star died of acute intoxication with propofol, which is usually used as an anaesthetic in hospital settings.
He said he would describe Jackson's death as homicide even if, as claimed by Dr Murray, the singer had himself administered an extra dose of propofol while the doctor was out of the room.
"Based on the quality of the medical care, I would still call this a homicide, even if the doctor did not provide the propofol to Mr Jackson," he said, on the second week of the pre-trial hearings.
Last week the pre-trial hearings heard from a series of witnesses who testified that Dr Murray delayed calling 911, tried to conceal what drugs he had administered, and did not know how to carry out emergency resuscitation.
Paramedic Martin Blount said that when he arrived Jackson seemed to have been dead for at least 20 minutes, despite Dr Murray's claim that he had stopped breathing a minute before they were called.
He added that Dr Murray initially denied having given Jackson any medications, but said he saw the doctor holding a needle and spotted three bottles of the anesthetic Lidocaine on the floor.
On Friday investigator Elissa Fleak said she found 12 vials of propofol in Jackson's house after he died, while a pharmacist testified on Monday that he supplied 255 vials of the drug to Dr Murray in the two months before his death.
Yesterday forensic expert, Mr Rogers, said propofol should not be used to treat insomnia, adding that he was told "that the doctor left Mr Jackson while he was anesthetised, and this is something you would not do."
"Bad things can happen very quickly" when a patient is anaesthetised, he added.
Various members of Jackson's family have been attending the LA pre-trial hearings. Yesterday they included sisters Janet and LaToya and his brother Randy.